Sudan army exchanges gunfire with Red Sea state forces

Dirar Ahmed Dirar, better known under his nickname Sheiba Dirar, being interviewed on the Arabic news channel Al Hadath on September 18 (Photo: Al Hadath)

A brief exchange of gunfire between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and gunmen loyal to Dirar Ahmed Dirar, known as Sheiba Dirar, head of the Alliance of Eastern Sudan Parties and Movements, took place on Monday night.

According to multiple news reports as well as geolocated video, the fighting took place near the headquarters of the Alliance of Eastern Sudan Parties and Movements in Port Sudan.

“Port Sudan has become effectively the alternative capital of Sudan following the capture of most of the capital Khartoum by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which have vowed to topple the military government” led by Sovereign Council chair and army commander Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, explained Sudan War Monitor today.

Journalist Lina Yagoub interviewed Dirar for the satellite channel Alhurra shortly after the incident. He said that a military force attacked the coalition headquarters in the Deim neighbourhood of the city, and the two sides exchanged fire without causing casualties.

He added that the clash broke out after his forces, which were stationed in front of their headquarters, searched trucks loaded with goods coming from the port that did not have proper documents.
“Some vehicles tried to enter without documents,” he said, claiming they were stopping the smuggling of goods that could assist the Rapid Support Forces.

“We were inspecting lorries with relief goods to stop the looting by the RSF when army forces attacked our checkpoint. We defended ourselves,” said Dirar to Al Hadath Arabic news channel.

“I support the army and other regular forces present in Khartoum and fighting the RSF rebellion, and I do not recognise those forces present in Red Sea state operating from behind closed doors,” he added.
“There is a fifth column in the state that works to pass supplies to the rebellion.”

According to Malik Agar, deputy chairperson of the Sovereignty Council, a new cabinet will be announced in Port Sudan, capital of Red Sea state, at the end of September. Following a visit to Uganda, El Burhan is continuing his visits to countries in the region. Sudanese activists and politicians call for a broad civil front to stop the war and rebuild the country.

Dirar Ahmed Dirar, better known under his nickname Sheiba Dirar, was deputy chairman of the Beja Congress political group until 2021. He was commander of the Eastern Front, an alliance of the Free Lions, the Beja Congress, and the East Democratic Party. The Eastern Front signed the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA) with the government of Omar Al Bashir in October 2006, but its ex-fighters never joined the rehabilitation programme agreed on.

After the signing of the ESPA, Dirar clashed with Eastern Front group leader Mousa Mohamed Ahmed when the Beja groups armed movement diverged over the new government positions stipulated in the agreement.

Dirar told El Raed news outlet in June last year that “eastern Sudan has suffered a lot from marginalisation, and we do not want the central government to decide on us anymore, and to build large buildings and villas on our expense. [..] Therefore, the Beja revolution will continue”.

“The Beja of eastern Sudan must be represented in any place in the centre,” he said. “We want unity and stability for Sudan, and for Sudan to be for everyone.”

In a Facebook post in March 2021, he was called “The strangest figure you can meet in the political scene in eastern Sudan. A man of all eras and regimes,” as he seems to have sought alliances with Darfur rebel groups, with the leader of the Sovereignty Council, Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, and with Gen Mohamed ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo as commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, on various occasions.